Featured Research Projects

How concussion tolerance in children differs from adults is unknown.  In this NIH-funded study, we are instrumenting youth football players with sensors to characterize the biomechanics of concussion in pediatric populations.  This study will provide the first biomechanical data describing concussion in kids and will be used to improve youth helmet design and make cars safer for kids.

Drones are becoming part of everyday life.  Prior to companies providing drone services (deliveries, news, video), we need to understand the risks associated with drone-to-human interactions during failure events.  We are currently characterizing these risks through experimental impact testing on a dummy.  Ultimately, we will define a safety standard that drones must pass before being allowed to fly over people.

Cycling accidents are the number one cause of sports-related concussion world-wide. Not all bicycle helmets are created equal, with some substantially reducing concussion risk and some barely passing the certification standard. We are developing advanced testing methods to replicate real-world cycling accidents in the lab, and then will use this system to rate the protective capability of all available bicycling helmets.

The NCAA – DOD Grand Alliance CARE Consortium is the largest study of concussion ever conducted. As an Advanced Research Core site, we participate in advanced research projects include head impact measurement, advanced neuroimaging, blood biomarkers, and comprehensive clinical studies to inform the neurobiopsychosocial understanding of sports-related concussion.

The Helmet Lab specializes in the field of injury biomechanics, with particular emphasis on investigating human tolerance to impact loading.  Rather than studying how to treat injury, we focus on studying ways to prevent injury. This research involves the identification and characterization of injury mechanisms, quantification of the biomechanical response to impact, determination of tolerance levels, and evaluation of protective design. We study injuries from the head to the Achilles tendon, but primarily focus on advancing the understanding of concussion and how to decrease the incidence of injury. Applications of our research include sports, automobiles, and military injury prevention.

Studying concussion is challenging because it is impossible to produce human brain injury in a laboratory environment. To work around these challenges, we instrument populations (athletes) that are at elevated risk of sustaining a concussion. This allows us to collect biomechanical data to characterize concussion in a observational manner. Through this work, we aim to quantify the mechanisms of concussion. Translational outcomes of our research on concussion have led to improved helmet design and new rules in football.

Our research is truly interdisciplinary, and we work on large teams to address big questions.  The Helmet Lab is part of the Center for Injury Biomechanics, and works closely with Virginia Tech Sports Medicine, the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, and the Mid Atlantic Aviation Partnership.